Afghanistan Humanitarian Crisis
Delivered in Plenary 2nd October 2001
Afghanistan must be the ultimate example of a tragic and failed state and yet there is a will to remain a unitary state across the ethnic divide. It has now suffered 28 years of communist dicatorship followed by fanatic Islamic theocracy, turning it into a pariah state as the Taleban harbour terrorists and execute thousands.
There are over 2 million refugees outside the country, some 5 million internally displaced persons, many of whom may flee if hostilities break out with the US and its allies.
The World Food Programme is hampered by difficult terrain, destroyed infrastructure and Taliban policies which prevent female participation, the arrests of aid workers on charges of religious proselytysing and a ban on communications with the outside world, essential to an International Aid Programme. In spite of this 218 tons of food got through to Kabul last week to avert a crisis.
It is clear that the West must now think of what can be done post Taliban to bring permanent stability to the country.
I was privileged last week to meet with 2 other MEPs in Rome the ex King of Afghanistan , and who has lived many years in the EU.
We were the first western elected politicians to visit the Royal Household since the crisis.
He demonstrated a supreme sense of patriotism and duty to his estranged country and went as far as saying that he would serve Afghanistan in any capacity his people chose through their assembled tribal council or "Loya Jirga" which he has been sponsoring and working for the last 2 years. He confirmed that he has now received key support from the opposition United Front/Northern Alliance forces, and will facilitate an internal settlement appropriate to the country.
He is the only acceptable Afghan figure who can unite all the warring factions and has demonstrated an ability between 1933 and 1973 to rule his country Constitutionally with tolerance and moderation, even using the English model of sport as a way to unite the disparate ethnic groups.
It was clear to me that Zahir Shah in spite of advanced age was both cogent and fit enough to do the job after conducting an hour and a half interview with us and he has wisely distanced himself from the restoration of the monarchy by leaving that to his people. I urge the House to support the King's mission.